8 Best Evaporative Coolers To Buy

Updated: Feb. 21, 2024

From small, portable models to powerful behemoths that can cool your entire house, here are the best evaporative coolers.

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Evaporative coolers, AKA swamp coolers, use an electric-powered fan to draw hot, dry air through a dampened pad and blow the cooled air out into the space, indoors or out. This relatively simple process consumes much less energy than a standard air conditioner and doesn’t require ozone-damaging refrigerants to work.

“Evaporative coolers work best in dryer climates,” says Lou Manfredini, Ace Hardware’s home expert. “In high humidity climates, they are not as effective. Air conditioners use a refrigerant to provide the cooling agent and a separate compressor through a sealed system that works in all climates. But, air conditioners are more expensive to run than an evaporative cooler.”

Evaporative coolers are also less expensive to install and maintain than central air conditioning.

What to Consider When Buying an Evaporative Cooler

If you’re considering an evaporative cooler, here are some details to keep in mind:

“The first question to consider is: Do you want a whole house unit or a portable one? Then you have to choose the right size for the area you want to treat,” says Manfredini. “Next,  look for manufacturers with high ratings and reviews from customers. The whole-house units that are installed in a home cost more, and the portable units are less expensive. So, you need to determine what your overall goal is for your home and how much of it you want conditioned.”

CFM Rating: Every model of evaporative cooler has a CFM (cubic feet per minute) rating, which indicates how much air the unit can move. The higher the CFM rating, the larger the area it can cool.

To determine the CFM rating you need to cool your space, calculate the cubic feet of space you want to cool (length in feet x width in feet x height in feet = cubic feet) and multiply that total by the number of air changes per hour (ACH) you prefer. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) suggests five to nine air changes an hour for residential rooms. Then divide that total by 60, per minute. The result is the CFM rating you should look for when purchasing your cooler.

Size of the Space: Some evaporative cooler models also list the square footage the unit can cool. This guideline is less precise than the CFM because it doesn’t take into account the height of a space, but it can still be a useful guideline.

Water Tank Capacity: A large water tank keeps your evaporative cooler running longer without the hassle of refills. Some outdoor evaporative coolers have a water intake hose option for continuous water flow into the tank.

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Best Indoor Portable Evaporative Cooler

Honeywell Evaporative Cooler

Many indoor coolers are too small to effectively reduce the temperature in an entire room. But this Honeywell Evaporative Cooler is surprisingly powerful (760 CFM) and has an ice compartment to turbo-boost its cooling capacity.

You can adjust its three fan speeds and three programs (normal, natural, sleep) via the remote control to evenly distribute cool air across 280 square feet. The low water alarm lets you know when it’s time for a refill. and the timer will automatically shut off the unit to save energy.

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Best Outdoor Portable Evaporative Cooler

Hessaire Three-Speed Portable Outdoor Evaporative Cooler

With its whopping 3,100 CFM and three air intake panels, the Hessaire Three-Speed Portable Outdoor Evaporative Cooler leads the pack for outdoor cooling power.

The unit is fitted with a water intake hose for a constant water supply to avoid the hassle of refilling the 10-gallon tank every three to four hours. Its patented axial propeller and ASDS (Air Swing Delivery System) make for maximum energy efficiency and cool-air coverage for outdoor spaces like patios, porches, decks and even sports fields.

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Best Indoor/Outdoor Portable Evaporative Cooler

Hessaire Three-Speed Indoor/Outdoor Portable Evaporative Cooler

If you’re looking for an all-in-one cooler to make your indoor or outdoor living spaces pleasant on hot days, the Hessaire Three-Speed Indoor/Outdoor Portable Evaporative Cooler is a winner. It combines cooling power, compact design, lightweight and rugged UV-resistant case, all at a reasonable price.

It can cool up to 500 square feet at five settings. Fill the water tank for indoor use, or attach a garden hose when cooling your patio or other outdoor space.

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Best Window Evaporative Cooler

Champion Window Evaporative Cooler

To cool up to 1,600 square feet of indoor living space without sacrificing floor space, look to the Champion Window Evaporative Cooler. Despite its compact and unobtrusive internal duct, this cooler puts out massive cooling power. It can be installed horizontally or vertically to fit your style of window, and a remote control lets you adjust between its two speeds.

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Best Whole-Home Evaporative Cooler (Side Discharge)

MasterCool Side Draft Whole-Home Evaporative Cooler

To cool your entire home, the MasterCool Side Draft Whole-Home Evaporative Cooler beats out competitors with the sheer power of its 7,000 CFM capacity. It can cool 2,300 square feet without breaking a sweat, at up to 75 percent energy savings compared to traditional air conditioning.

The perforated air inlet screen and 12-inch pads allow for more airflow than other comparable models, while the one-horsepower motor maximizes cooling capacity. Bonus: Those custom honeycomb-shaped cardboard cooling pads come with a five-year warranty.

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Best Whole-Home Evaporative Cooler (Down Draft)

Whole-House Down-Draft Evaporative Cooler

MasterCool hits it out of the park with its Whole-House Down-Draft Evaporative Cooler. It has all the bells and whistles of the side-draft model, but can be professionally installed on your roof.

This brand is a leader in evaporative coolers with its signature air inlet screens and cardboard pads that optimize cooling power with significant energy savings. Opt to purchase the motor for their down-discharge cooler separately, if you like, so you can customize the horsepower to the area you’re trying to cool.

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Best Portable Evaporative Cooler Splurge

Big Ass Fans Cold Front 11-Speed Portable Indoor/Outdoor Evaporative Cooler

The name may be lighthearted, but Big Ass Fans Cold Front 11-Speed Portable Indoor/Outdoor Evaporative Cooler is no laughing matter. This heavy hitter outclasses most other portable evaporative coolers with its 1,800 CFM that can cool up to 800 square feet, indoors or out.

Use the 11-gallon water tank indoors, or hook it up directly to a garden hose to cool your outdoor space. Two quiet integrated fans can bring the temperature in the immediate area down to 33 F — fast.

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Best Value Portable Evaporative Cooler

NewAir Three-Speed Portable Evaporative Cooler and Fan

The NewAir Three-Speed Portable Evaporative Cooler and Fan packs a cooling punch that belies its small size (and affordable price). With a 470 CFM rating, this model can effectively cool about 250 square feet — perfect for a bedroom or office.

The removable water tank makes refills a breeze, and the remote control makes it easy to pick your speed and set the timer. The cooler’s chic contemporary design is a pleasant plus.

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